I usually listen to Radio 2 and love Chris Evan’s Breakfast show and the Pause for thought that is included.
Last Friday it was Baroness Julia Neuberger, Senior Rabbi at the West London Synagogue talking about Women. I confess I was surprised at what she said about Reformed Jewish attitude towards homosexuality. I was half asleep (on holiday) and so didn’t listen carefully enough to a quote from a 10th century midrash * so I have picked it up from the website. Christian readers will hear an echo from Paul’s writing! It also means I need to go away and see how Jewish commentators deal with the difficult passages in the Hebrew Scriptures on the thorny subject of homosexuality .
Food for thought!
This is the text of what she said:
From Baroness Julia Neuberger, Senior Rabbi at the West London Synagogue:
“Last Saturday morning’s service at my synagogue was one where, even for a truly egalitarian Reform Jewish congregation, a lot of women were taking part. Three women rabbis, lots of women readers, and we had visitors from more traditional synagogues who were not used to seeing so many women taking the service. At the end I commented that we did not usually have quite so many women taking part, but that we quite liked it that way! And we do.
But it did make me think what a long way we have come. I was one of the first women rabbis in the UK, and the first worldwide to lead a synagogue on my own. That’s now commonplace. Our training colleges are full of women, the American reform rabbis are chaired by a woman, and no-one turns a hair. So things have changed. Whilst other faiths have been tearing their hair out over equalities, non-orthodox Jews worldwide have been getting on with recruiting more rabbis, saying that it makes not a blind bit of difference whether someone is male or female, gay or straight- it’s what they do that counts. It goes back to a famous tenth century saying from Seder Eliyyahu Rabba:
“It matters not whether a person be male or female, manservant or maidservant, Jew or Gentile, it is according to his deeds that the Holy Spirit rests upon a person.”
Absolutely right- and we’ve witnessed a bursting forth of talent and commitment, spiritual sensitivity and understanding, from people who were not allowed to carry out these roles before. We rabbis are teachers. If we cannot teach equality, of the sexes, of sexual orientation, and between ethnic groups, it’s a pretty poor lookout. What gives me hope is that women as well as men, gay as well as straight, are now holding key roles in Jewish life, and teaching in new and inspiring ways. And that’s just as it should be.”
* Explanation of the midrash source